Posted by: Kathy | November 15, 2012

Her Last Night

At this time 4 years ago, my son had just shared with my mom that he had passed black belt testing. According to the nurse, my mom had not eaten, spoken, or moved all day. But when Matt told her of his accomplishment, my mom said “that’s wonderful” over and over again. She was waiting for her grandson to pass his testing and knew that he would. About 15 hours later, my mom drew her last breath and was finally at peace.

My mom’s last night with us is forever in my memory in both good and bad ways. The good – the love my mom had for her family and her strong belief in her grandson gave her the will to live until he passed his black belt testing. That is unconditional love.

I will never forget the last night I spent with my mom. The fear I had that she would die. The fear I had that she would continue to live in pain. About a year ago, I wrote a short story about the last night of my mom’s life and the morning she died. Here are excerpts from the part that talks about the last night of her life:

The bedroom was very dark; much darker than my bedroom at home. A small nightlight off to one side of the room glowed dimly, and a projection clock slowly ticked off the minutes on the ceiling above me. Even though I had been in this bedroom hundreds of times over the past 30-some years, I had never slept here. This was my parents’ bedroom, and I was here at my dad’s request. He was asleep in my childhood bedroom down the hall, although that didn’t provide me with any comfort. Nothing did at this point.

I was cold, probably more because of the circumstances than the temperature of the room or the number of blankets that covered me. But it hardly mattered because I knew that I would get little sleep during the night. I was afraid to fall asleep. A few feet from me, my mom sat in a stuffed chair covered by blankets. She was in too much pain to lay flat in her bed… .

Even though I wanted to help my dad, I was scared and felt completely helpless. Before I climbed into my parents’ bed, I knelt before my mom, tucked the blankets around her, and let her know that I would be with her all night. I told her that all she had to do was say my name and I would help her. Less than an hour had passed since then. Was my mom sleeping? Was she warm enough? How much pain was she in? If she was awake, what was she thinking about? All of these thoughts raced through my mind as I watched the minutes tick away slowly on the projection clock above me. I was scared that my mom would need something and I wouldn’t know how to help her. Honestly, I was terrified that she would die during the night and I wouldn’t be able to handle it… . I lay awake listening to my mom’s breathing and the click of the morphine pump, which, at this point, hardly provided any pain relief.

The night passed by slowly… . The numbers 12:28 illuminated a small part of the ceiling. I silently slid out of the bed and re-covered my mom. Her arms and hands kept shifting, twitching, or jumping, as if they were controlled by puppet strings. This had happened at times during the day, but these movements seemed to have worsened. With each movement the blankets would shift until they eventually slid off. After all that my mom had been through, it seemed beyond cruel that she should be cold on this frosty November night. This was the only thing I could control, so I kept getting up to reposition the blankets. I also pushed the button on the medicine pump for an extra dose of morphine, thinking that she may be in a lot of pain. At one point while I was re-adjusting the blankets, I knelt before my mom and tried to figure out if she was asleep. I wanted to make sure she was as comfortable as she could be or see if she needed anything. I quietly said her name and then stared at her through the darkness, hoping for some sort of response. I wanted to talk to my mom. I needed to talk to her. I knew she was dying and I wanted to make sure my mom knew how much I loved her. But she didn’t say anything, or even move, just a few twitches of her hand. So I went back to my parents’ bed and hoped the rest of the night would pass by quickly.

When I had first seen my mom earlier tonight, I was shocked at how much she had deteriorated since I last saw her only a day ago. Her chin was nearly touching her chest because she didn’t have the strength to lift her head anymore. My mom had become a mere shell of her former self. I laid there for a while listening to my mom breathing. The clock on the ceiling showed that it was 1:35.

I closed my eyes and prayed, something I did almost every night. I asked God to comfort my mom and surround her with angels. Before now, all my prayers had asked for one thing, to heal my mom, something only a miracle could do. But at this point, there would be no miracle. My mom was going to die. I believe my mom realized this too, but I had no idea how she really felt about it, except that she didn’t want to leave my kids. I drifted off to sleep as I was praying, and then awoke with a start, surprised that I had fallen asleep. The projection on the ceiling showed that it was a little after 4:30 am. I quickly listened for my mom’s breathing, relieved that she was still alive. I got up and checked her blankets, and then went back to bed.

As I read these words again, I remember that night – my mom’s last night with me. Four years have passed since that horrifying night. I still remember the details, but the pain doesn’t run as deep. I am slowly healing. I miss my mom, but I am grateful that she is no longer in pain and at peace.


  1. Hi Kathy,
    I’ve written and rewritten this so many times, I don’t know where to start.
    This is such a brave post, I can feel your pain and anguish in your words.

    I remember clearly that last time I saw my mum, and I think of that moment often.
    I wish I had said more to her, told her I loved her more often, done more for her whilst she was still alive, but we didn’t know how ill she really was.
    She had a fall whilst we were away on holiday and went from being a poorly old lady to a terminal patient in less than 2 weeks.
    I didn’t get to speak to her before she died, we got back just too late, and I regret that so much.
    When we left that last night, she struggled to come to the door to see us off She said ” I’m going to miss you two” ..and I said ” I’m going to miss you too ” and we got in the car to drive off.
    As I look back at her standing there, her brown eyes wide and her little hand waving goodbye I suddenly had this impulse to stop the car and go back and give her a big hug and to tell her I loved her and was going to miss her.
    I told her not to worry, we weren’t going away for long and we would soon be back.
    Little did I know how true that was going to be.

    I think about her last few months pottering around her house, trying to recover from her operation, but unknown to us dying inside from a bone infection, and cry inside.
    Her loss has hit me hard and for some time I wasn’t sure I could / wanted to get through it all, but those times are not so common now.

    I suppose she / we were lucky that we didn’t have to go through the pain and trauma that you and your family have done, and for me, that because I wasn’t there, my lasting memories of my Mum are different to those of my brothers and sisters, but I do wish I had been able to speak to her, just to say one last time ” I love you ”
    Thanks for your time listening and for your brave blog, my thoughts are with you.
    love n hugs xxx

    • Thank you. Your comment really touched my heart. I didn’t feel very brave that night. I was petrified, and that night still haunts me. I’ve always said, and still do, that out of all of us, my mom was the bravest of us all. Only once, did I “see” her cry throughout her entire illness. She actually started crying while we were talking on the phone and it broke my heart. My mom was always so positive, so hopeful.

      I’m glad you went back and gave your mom a hug and told her you loved her. You listened to that inner voice that knows better than we do at times. I wish I had listened to mine more often. I do now (or at least try to).

      As I said in the post I just wrote, a loss is a loss. It doesn’t matter if you were there when it happened or how long the person suffered, you lost someone important to you. I’m sorry you lost your mom. My thoughts are with you as well. Take care.

  2. I realize that the closer you draw to that one year, the harder it gets, the pain increases. I have ran away for a few months hoping to escape time but, alas, i could not. I have kept this post saved in my email inbox hoping to read it one day….when I had the courage enough to write about something. But I cannot run away much longer. Thank you for sharing, Kathy. I can never thank you enough for that.

    • No, you can’t escape. I’ve tried but the pain was still there. And even after 4 years, remembering my mom’s last night and the morning she died is hard and it hurts. Remember you are NOT alone. There are many who understand your pain, the desire to run away, everything. I’m here for you. You’re in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs.

  3. Thank you for this post. I can barely write this through all my tears, I am truly touched by your words. It has been 10 months since my mom died of pancreatic cancer, and your story sounds much like mine. My mother did not want to leave her grandkids…that what she lived for. And I am still reliving that horrible day, and final week every night. I take comfort in your words,though, knowing that someday it will get better. But right now I cannot see through the pain.

    • Hi Lynn: I’m sorry you lost your mom to pancreatic cancer. I relived the last days, weeks, and months of my mom’s life for years. Guilt over things I should have done. Pain thinking about how awful those last few weeks were for my mom. I cried in private because I didn’t want my kids to see my grief. I wrote blogs through many, many tears. This is the first year since my mom died that the anniversary of her death didn’t completely “undo” me. I feel like it should hurt more, but I also know that my mom would want me to heal and think of her in happiness and not tears. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my mom or think of her in some way, but the grief has lessened. Everyone grieves in their own way and heals in their own time, and that’s okay. Know that you are not alone in the way you feel. Take care. Hugs.

  4. Although the pain I’ve experienced is different than yours, Kathy, I do relate to how it gradually becomes more bearable over time.
    Sharing our stories seems to help that process, too.

    • Thanks Denise. Although painful at times to write about, I think sharing our experiences can help others. Take care.

  5. You have such a beautiful way with words, Kathy.  I am so sorry that you lost your Mom.  I pray always….for much peace, love and happiness to be in your life.  And, I pray for continued healing from the loss of your Mom.   I Love You…My Friend,   Claudia


    • Thank you, my friend. You have been a great source of support and comfort since my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I deeply appreciate all that you’ve done for me. Love you.

  6. I, too, remember the last night of my mom’s life. I know about the fear you speak of and the pain and the worry. I am glad to know you are healing, and I wish you peace.

    • There are times when my mom’s loss still hits me like a train. But, overall, the pain is getting less. I wish you peace too. Take care

  7. 1 year ago, my mom signed up for hospice. I’m doing a lot of remembering myself, and I relate to much of what you experienced. Thank you.

    • Thanks for commenting. We are not alone. It’s a sad fact, but it also helps to know that others understand how we are feeling. Take care.

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